In their 4-3 loss to the Stars last night, the Hurricanes managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in absolutely vintage Hurricanes fashion. Scott Wedgewood became the latest addition to the team’s “turn-backup-goaltender-into-Vezina-candidate” trend, in an effort that had Rod Brind’Amour singing praises.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a better game in 20 years being here as far as doing everything we were trying to do.” Brind’Amour said. “We just didn’t get it in the net as much as we’d like.”
….You think? I mean, the Canes only peppered 47 shots on goal. They only had 12 high-danger scoring chances (according to Natural Stat Trick). And they only won the expected GF (xG) battle by a margin of 3.87 to 1.35 (74.2%). But it was just one of those nights — those nights that have become comically frequent.
As a whole, you absolutely cannot fault the Canes’ effort. They were much the better team but ran into a hot goaltender that had a career night….again. Anyways. Let’s break down the good, the bad and the rest of the storylines from the game.
- Nino Niederreiter has been a very clutch player for the Canes since his arrival in the Rask trade, but he’s kind of taken it to another level recently. 10 of the last 12 goals that he’s scored have either tied the game for Carolina or given them the lead. He’s continuously showing up in key situations for the group, and is establishing himself as potentially the top priority free agent for the team come the offseason. On a near 30-goal pace and an element of heaviness that the majority of the team’s wingers lack, his value cannot be overstated.
- Brady Skjei had two primary assists in the game, and was very solid defensively throughout. He’s become a very stable top-four defenseman for the team since his arrival in the overly-criticized 2020 trade from New York, and it’s been nice to see him get rewarded offensively this year. He led the team with three blocked shots and also led all Canes in ice-time with over 24 minutes. He and Brett Pesce just continue to be a dynamite pairing.
- As if it needs to be said, making Scott Wedgewood look like a Vezina-caliber goaltender is an obvious disaster. This guy was on waivers just a few months ago and has now started for three different NHL teams this season. Kudos to him for an unreal performance, but God have mercy. I had major Troy Grosenick flashbacks watching this one.
- Brian Boucher’s colour commentary wasn’t enough to save what was ultimately a rough night for the ESPN Broadcast, which produced one of the funniest moments you’re likely to see all season. After the referees inexplicably awarded Dallas a penalty shot — and yes, it was an absolutely egregious call (watch below) — the network pulled one of the all-time biggest errors I have ever seen.
While Michael Raffl was approaching the puck for his penalty shot against Freddie Andersen, ESPN decided it would be the perfect time to cut to commercial break. I mean, it’s not like the largest moment of the game was mere seconds away from taking place. I guess the production team figured that nobody cared to watch it. By the time they realized what was going on, the drama ended — with Andersen making the save. It was the perfect mix of both stunning and hilarious. It’ll unquestionably go down as one of the biggest bloopers of the season, and something that fans are sure to laugh about for years.
Max Domi Debuts
Max Domi made his Hurricanes debut, getting 10:41 of ice-time on the fourth line alongside Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Derek Stepan. He was pretty noticeable in the first period, with some aggressive forechecking and patient play on the cycle. He didn’t really have the chance to get involved in the game though, and didn’t really make much of an impact in any facet.
However, he led the team with four hits and the Canes controlled shot attempts 14-4 with him on the ice, so it was a positive first impression overall. As he continues to settle into the system, the likelihood is he’ll have more to offer offensively. Familiarizing him with line mates that he’s played with previously is a smart way to integrate him in with the group, and when he proves that he’s earned a promotion Rod will have the opportunity to bump him up in the lineup. He did make a positive first impression on his coach:
“That [whole] line was good. At the end I kind of didn’t play them as much because the way the game was going. But they were good. He’s [Domi] going to need some time to figure out how we play a little bit because of the new system, but I thought he was effective.” said Brind’Amour.
Overall, this was not a loss that should raise any concern for the team or the fanbase. Sometimes — seemingly often times for the Canes — you just run into a hot goalie that steals a result. They’ll have a chance to bounce back in St. Louis on Saturday night, as they’re set to face the Blues on an 8 p.m. puck drop.